The Wizards tweeted Tuesday evening that you could watch their preseason debut on NBA TV. A great many fans evidently planned on doing just that.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 8, 2013
And then, as the above image demonstrates, it turned out that the #WizNets game could not be seen on NBA TV, at least not in the Washington television market. So fans were angry, as demonstrated here and here.
So what’s the deal?
Well, since NBA TV started more than a decade ago, its policy has been to black out its broadcasts in the home team’s television market, out of respect for the league’s regional sports network partners. (In this case, Comcast SportsNet.) Those games are blacked out in the home market regardless of whether the game is actually airing on local television. (For road teams, the game is only blacked out if the regional sports network is actually showing it, but the game airs if the regional sports network isn’t showing it.)
Now, some regional sports networks broadcast virtually every preseason NBA game. Some show next to none. The Wizards usually wind up somewhere in between; last season Comcast SportsNet aired three preseason games, and the year before it aired two. This season, CSN will broadcast the two remaining “home” games — against Miami on Oct. 15, and against New York in Baltimore on Oct. 17.
Tuesday night’s home game, though, wasn’t on the CSN schedule. NBA TV showed it using the YES Network feed, but CSN couldn’t have picked that broadcast up even if it wanted to.
So the situation Tuesday night wasn’t a mistake, and it wasn’t due to any actions from the team or the network, other than CSN originally deciding not to broadcast the game.
Now, the Wizards are technically the “home” team Saturday night in Rio, but these so-called “Global Games” aren’t covered by the league’s blackout rules. So yes, the NBA TV broadcast Saturday at 5 will indeed be available in the D.C. market.
UPDATE: NBA TV will actually carry the CSN Chicago feed on Saturday.
(For fun, I looked at a few other regional teams. Only two of the Sixers’ preseason games are being shown on Comcast SportsNet. The Bobcats have only one preseason game on local television, as do the Hawks. On the other hand, every Knicks preseason game is broadcast on either MSG or MSG2. All eight Cavs preseason games are being shown on either FOX Sports Ohio or SportsTime Ohio, but this is the first time that’s happened.)